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The Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it will reconsider the legality of factoring race into public university admissions decisions in a case brought on by a white student who was denied admission to the University of Texas.
The Associated Press reports that Abigail Fisher, a Texas native who is now finishing up her degree at Louisiana State University, filed a lawsuit with another woman back in 2008 when they were both denied admission to UT, contending that the university’s policy violated their civil and constitutional rights. The other woman has since dropped out of the case.
As the Washington Post points out, Texas has a unique college admissions procedure, providing admission for those applicants who were in the top 10 percent of their Texas high schools without regard to race. For the remaining slots in an incoming class, however, race is factored in along with a slew of the other usual factors, like community service and test scores.
The SCOTUS hearing on the Fisher case, which is slated for the fall during the run-up to the presidential election, will likely generate its fair share of bipartisan debate on the historically controversial topic.
The last affirmative action ruling from the high court came in 2003 in Grutter vs. Bollinger, whereby the justices ruled in a tight 5-4 vote that public colleges and universities could not use a point system to boost minority enrollment but could factor in race to ensure academic diversity. That decision was penned by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and has been supported by the Obama administration.
But the vote may take a decisive switch come fall. Justice Samuel Alito, who has since replaced Justice O'Connor, appears more hostile to affirmative action. Meanwhile, Justice Elena Kagan, who would be expected to vote with the court's liberal-leaning justices in support of it, will not be taking part in the case, likely because she served in a previous job as Obama's solicitor general.